I could spend days strolling through the weekly market in the French town of Vaison-la-Romaine. The vendors at this open air marché sell food and wares from sardines to soap, from Morbier to mattresses. Of all the treasures on display in this maze of stalls, the Mara de Bois – the strawberry that is like a large ruby – is the most precious.
This flavorful gem is smaller and rounder than other varieties, and my husband and I were lured by its sweet perfume. The merchant offered us a taste, and the aromatic sugar cube melted on my tongue. Of the two pints we purchased, one made it back to the house. It took all of my will power to save the other for dessert. (The tiny berries are so delicate that you must consume them within hours of purchase; at least, that is what I told myself as I popped the juicy candies into my mouth.)
There was no need to stop at the confiserie after our trip to the market. The Mara de Bois is a natural confection. And, that evening’s dessert was the simplest I have ever prepared – two petite bowls of Mara de Bois. No honey, no whipped cream, and certainly, no sugar.